Nanotech Database

Article Title:
Imagining Nanotechnology: cultural support for technological innovation in Europe and the United States

Gaskell, George

Journal Information:
Public Understanding of Science
Vol. 14, Num. 1


This paper compares European and American public perceptions towards technologies. Europeans are less enthusiastic about new technologies in general, and so are less enthusiastic about nanotechnologies. The authors used the Eurobarometer, a "multi-stage, random probablity face-to-face sample survey. In each EU country, a number of sampling points are drawn with probability proportional to population size and population density." The US field work was conducted with "a random probability telephone survey." (82) Interviews and surveys took place from September 2002-February 2003. The results show various associations between technologies. The percentages in Europe and America saying that nanotechnology will "have no effect" or "will make things worse" were about the same. However, the percent saying that technology "will improve our way of life" or "don't know" were rather different, with 50% of the Americans optimistic and 35% saying "don't know." In Europe 53% "don't know," and 29% are optimistic. (84) A general view of the value of technology is shown by the fact that if an American is positive about two technology, then they will be probably by positive about nanotechnology. A European, by contrast, must be positive about 7 other technologies to be optimistic about nanotechnology. "This suggests that people in the US are more likely to assimiliate nanotechnology within a positive framework." (84) Media coverage from 1990-2003 were relatively low. Three sources were of importance: Michael Crichton's Prey, the ETC Group report, and a speech by Prince Charles. Gaskell et al. feel that nanotechnology could be politicized on an international due to varying public attitudes. Furthermore, nanotechnolgy asks us to debate what type of society we wish to create.